Helping members of Parliament and select committees

MPs' guide to the Auditor-General.

The Auditor-General, at their discretion, helps MPs and select committees to hold public entities to account, either individually or as a group where they have collective responsibilities.

The Officers of Parliament Committee has approved the Code of Practice for the provision of assistance by the Auditor-General to the House, select committees and members of Parliament. This code of practice provides guidance on the main ways in which the Auditor-General may help Parliament, its select committees, and MPs.

The code of practice includes further information about the types of help outlined in this section. It also explains the circumstances that determine when the Auditor-General acts as a witness or as an advisor to a select committee.

Main point of contact

Advice and assistance for MPs and select committees is usually provided by the Auditor-General’s sector managers – specialised senior staff who each have a portfolio of responsibilities that align with one or more of Parliament’s subject select committees.

A list of sector managers, the select committees they advise, and their contact details is kept up to date at

Support for members of Parliament

The Auditor-General’s sector managers are available to answer routine enquiries and requests from MPs.

MPs can also ask the Auditor-General to conduct an inquiry into a specific matter. In deciding how to respond to such a request, the Auditor-General assesses the issues raised in the request, the merits of an inquiry against other potential inquiries and programmed work, and considers whether carrying out an inquiry would be in the wider public interest.

Support for select committees

Finance and Expenditure Committee

The Auditor-General has regular interaction with the Finance and Expenditure Committee (FEC). The Auditor-General may consult with the FEC about the general nature and extent of the help that the Office gives to the FEC and other select committees in their examining of Estimates and departmental performance.

The FEC may also invite the Auditor-General to advise on drawing up any standard questionnaire for select committees to use in their examination of the Estimates.

Each year, the Auditor-General consults the House through the FEC on the proposed content of the Auditor-General's annual work programme.

Estimates of Appropriations

During the Budget process, the Auditor-General’s sector managers provide briefings to select committees on the Estimates of Appropriations. Estimates briefings include information summarised from documents such as:

  • the Estimates and the information supporting the Estimates;
  • public entities’ Statements of Intent;
  • public entities’ annual reports; and
  • Ministers’ responses to the Standard Estimates Questionnaire.

The briefings also draw from other sources, including information received during statutory audit work. Sector managers will suggest lines of enquiry that the committee may wish to ask the relevant Vote Minister.

Annual reviews

Sector managers provide written and oral briefings to help select committees with their annual reviews of public entities. These briefings include further details on the results of the annual audit and a grading based on the Auditor-General’s assessment of the public entity’s management control environment and financial information (and service performance where required) systems and controls.

The briefings can also include suggestions for lines of enquiry and questions relevant to the performance and current operations of the public entity, or groups of public entities, under review.

To identify lines of enquiry, sector managers will:

  • analyse the results of the annual audit and the accountability documents;
  • refer to any relevant performance audit or inquiry work; and
  • use specific knowledge of the public entity or group of public entities gained during the audit and ongoing contact with the public entity or group of public entities.

These lines of enquiry will usually relate to performance, authority, waste, probity, and accountability in public entities.

Select committee inquiries

A select committee that wants to initiate its own inquiry into the financial administration, spending, activities, and other aspects of the performance of public entities can ask the Auditor-General to advise on options and/or terms of reference for the inquiry and the methods to be used.

The Auditor-General can also act as an advisor to the committee or agree to take up the matter themselves, as either an inquiry or a performance audit.

Select committee consideration of the Auditor-General’s reports to Parliament

Since October 2008, Standing Orders provide that all reports by the Auditor-General that are presented to Parliament are referred to the FEC. The FEC may examine the report itself or refer the report to another select committee if it considers that the subject area is primarily within the other committee’s terms of reference.

We encourage the FEC and other committees to accept our offers to brief them on our reports and, importantly, to use these reports to examine the relevant entity or entities involved, in order to hold them to account for their performance.